In the course of a normal race, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Bailee Cofer is able to easily shut out the crowd.
However her gold-medal-winning 3,200 meter run on day one of the Kansas state track and field championships at Cessna Stadium was no normal race.
As Cofer and her teammates Grace Geiger and Emily Downey approached the halfway point of the Class 5A race, they pulled away from the rest of the field, prompting tournament officials to do some quick research.
Cofer finished in 10 minutes, 59.17 seconds, Geiger followed in 11:01.40 and Downey placed third in 11:06.46 as Aquinas became the first school since 1976 to sweep the top three spots in the event. The fourth-place runner was more than 24 seconds behind them.
“When they were saying that over the announcements, I was getting amped,” Cofer said. “I thought, ‘Man, we have to do this.’ I’m glad I heard it.”
If Aquinas’ sweep of the distance events at state sounds familiar, it is. The same three runners were a part of an Aquinas team that won the Class 5A cross country title in the fall with a perfect score after taking the top five team spots. Cofer won the individual title with Downey and Geiger in second and third.
“It is the best feeling, especially with those girls, because they are my best friends,” Cofer said. “I wouldn’t want to share this with anybody else.”
Thomas Pyle, who broke his own school record a handful of times this season, added another state title for the Saints in the long jump with a mark of 22 feet, 3 3/4 inches.
Venters first in 3,200
Lawrence Free State freshman Emily Venters, who won the Class 6A state cross country meet in the fall, was also able to double up her titles by winning the 3,200. She broke 11 minutes for just the second time this season to cross the line in 10:58.08. Teammate Claire Sanner finished third.
“I did not expect to come out and do this,” Venters said. “At the beginning of cross country I just wanted to swim, so my mom had to talk me into it. But turned out well. I’m sticking with it.”
Trevor Hillis won Free State’s second title of the day with a mark of 15-00 in the pole vault.
On the defensive
On the field side of competition, three area athletes were able to defend their state titles. Lawrence’s Matia Finley won the Class 6A discus with a toss of 141-10. Paola’s Andrew Henn shattered his seeding mark of 192-03 and threw a 202-03 to win his second straight Class 4A javelin title.
“I was hitting my plant pretty well and getting through the point better than I have been lately,” Henn said. “It flew pretty well.”
Olathe South’s Braden Smith, who is headed to Auburn next year to play football, also defended his title in the 6A shot put with a toss of 59-08. He has a chance to repeat in the discus as well and will compete in that event on Saturday.
Vanderpool steps up
Shawnee Mission West’s Megan Vanderpool, who placed second in the Class 6A pole vault a year ago, took the title this time with a vault at 10-00 then hopped off the awards stand to go help the Vikings set a new personal record in the 400-meter relay preliminaries. She also competed in the preliminary race for the 300-meter hurdles later in the morning.
The other winners in Class 6A were Shawnee Mission South’s Brooke Holmes, who took home the girls triple-jump title with a leap of 37-09.25; Isaiah Simmons of Olathe North, who won the long jump with a leap of 22-10.25; and Keaton Matthews of Blue Valley North, who won the high jump with a leap of 6-06.00.
In Class 5A, Allie Webb of St. James Academy won the Class 5A javelin title with a mark of 134-06, Mill Valley’s Taylor Corbitt took home the triple-jump title with a leap of 35-04.50 and Leavenworth’s William Morrison took home the discus title with a toss of 176-11.
In Class 4A, Tonganoxie’s Ben Johnson set a new personal record to win the triple jump with a leap of 45-02.00 and Jannell Clampitt of De Soto won the pole vault with a leap of 10-06.00.
Tony Weber of Pleasant Ridge won the Class 3A 3,200-meter race in 9:36.92.
Maranatha Academy’s Lauren Harrell won the Class 2A 3,200 in 11:41.24.
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